Women in Armenia have been officially guaranteed gender equality since the establishment of the Republic of Armenia in 1991. This has enabled women to actively participate in all spheres of Armenian life. Armenian women have attained prominence in entertainment, politics and other fields.
According to the 2011 Grant Thornton International business survey, 29% of top-level managerial positions in Armenia were occupied by women in 2010. However, this figure declined to 23% in 2011. Based on a report by the United Nations, there were 24 female mayors and community leaders in Armenia in 2011; a further 50 women held lower-level administrative positions.
Although some nationalist feminists from the early 20th century to the present have concocted a view of ancient Armenian society and law as being woman-friendly, there is virtually no evidence for this assertion. The law code of Mkhitar Gos, dating to the 12th century, sought to raise women's status from its former level, however the code explicitly enshrined male domination and forbade divorce, even in the case of domestic violence or marital rape. Its most progressive elements seem to have never been applied in society at large, and in the 18th and 19th centuries both outsider and insider reports overwhelmingly commented on the low status of women in traditional Armenian society. Married women lived as virtual slaves of their husbands' families, although the situation improved gradually with age. During the first year of marriage, they were not permitted to speak to anyone except their husband, and were forbidden from leaving the house. In some villages, these restrictions continued even after the birth of the first child, and may have lasted more than ten years. Female suicide was more common than male suicide, in striking contrast to the situation in the west.
In spite of the inferior position of women in Armenian society, the Armenian Apostolic Church allowed women greater opportunities for assuming clerical roles than most other Christian traditions. Unlike the Eastern Orthodox, however, they were strongly opposed to divorce, and as a result the divorce rate in traditional Armenia has always been among the lowest in the Christian world.
According to the World Health Organization, between 10% and 60% of Armenian women suffered domestic abuse and violence in 2002; the uncertainty of the data was due to the underreporting of domestic violence in Armenia. Underreporting is said to occur because of the treatment of domestic violence as a private family matter. There are no well-established laws against domestic aggression and gender-based prejudice in Armenia. Furthermore, divorcing a husband – even an abusive one – causes "social disgrace", with the families of women who file for divorce or report domestic violence being considered to be shamed. Other contributing factors include Armenian women's lack of, or lower level of, education regarding their rights and how to protect themselves from abuse.
In May 2007, through the legislative decree known as "the gender quota law", more Armenian women were encouraged to get involved in politics. That year, only seven women occupied parliamentary positions. Among these female politicians was Hranush Hakobyan, the longest-serving woman in the National Assembly of Armenia. The relative lack of women in Armenia's government has led to Armenian women being considered "among the most underrepresented" and "among the lowest in the world" by foreign observers. In addition, Armenian women's place in politics is often located in the private sphere. Often their entry in the public sphere is only valued when they reflect the image of the feminine ideal based on social expectations, which continue to put a barrier on the political, social, and economic accessibility for women. Arpine Hovhannisyan is the first Armenian Woman who is holding the position of Justice Minister in Armenia. she is also a politician and lawyer.
In 2010 and 2011, during Women’s Month and as part of the "For You, Women" charitable program, the Surb Astvatcamayr Medical Center in the Armenian capital of Yerevan offered free gynecological and surgical services to the women of Armenia for a full month. Women from across the country arrived seeking treatment.
Sex selective abortion is reported as being a problem in the country, due to patriarchal social norms which consider having a son preferable to having a daughter. Nevertheless, due to strong emigration under the form of "brain drain", where young Armenian men go abroad in search of work, there are more young women than men in the country, especially among those in their 20s: women make up 55.8% of the population aged 15–29.
The oldest literary expression by Armenian women available to us today in writing is the poetry of two 8th-century CE women, Khosrovidukht of Goghtn and Sahakdukht of Syunik. Following the Armenian literary renaissance of the 19th century, and the spread of educational opportunities for women, a number of other writers emerged, among them the 19th-century feminist writer Srpouhi Dussap, considered the first female Armenian novelist. She, like her contemporary, Zabel Sibil Asadour, is generally associated with Constantinople and the Western Armenian literary tradition. Zabel Yesayan, also born in Constantinople, bridged the gap with Eastern Armenian literature by settling in Soviet Armenia in 1933. The literary renaissance and its accompanying voice of protest also had its representatives in the East with poet Shushanik Kurghinian of Tiflis (1876–1927). Sylvia Kaputikyan and Maro Markarian are probably the best-known women poets from the Republic of Armenia of the 20th century, and continued the tradition of political speech through poetry.
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